OLYMPIA — Tesla can continue to sell cars directly to customers under amended bills passed in the state House and Senate, but it will be the only car manufacturer with that privilege.
Senate Bill 6272 and House Bill 2524 were intended keep manufacturers from competing with their own dealers by banning manufacturer-owned dealerships and franchise stores — Tesla’s sales model. They would have kept Tesla, which has stores in Seattle and Bellevue, from opening additional franchises. But both bills were amended to exclude manufacturers who already have a license to do so.
Rep. Steve Kirby, Tacoma Democrat and prime sponsor of the House bill, said the amendment was a necessary compromise. But he said he preferred the original bills.
“I still think that the company should have to follow the same laws as every other auto manufacturer in the world,” he said.
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Both bills passed out of chambers on Monday after a rally of Tesla owners who came to the state Capitol in support of the company.
Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, was the first person in Washington to own a Tesla.
He preordered his Tesla Roadster mostly online in July 2006 and waited three years for it to arrive. Today, Tesla owners don’t have to wait as long for their customized cars, but they buy them in pretty much the same way.
Tesla doesn’t have inventory as other manufacturers do. Customers visit retail stores
or the company website to order a custom electric car, and it arrives in a number of weeks.
Several states have pushed to get rid of Tesla’s model. Ohio lawmakers are renewing an effort to ban the factory stores. There have been similar efforts in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Texas.
Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president for business and corporate development, said the company was pleased with the Washington state decision.
“We believe to give the technology the support it needs that we need direct interaction with customers,” he said.
Mullet doesn’t expect the issue to resurface. “In Washington, we’re sorted out now,” he said.
Steve Coram is a middle-school vice principal and vice president of North Sound Electric Vehicle Association.
He drove his Nissan Leaf to Olympia on Monday with his children — Sabrina, 6, and Charlie, 2 — to stand with Tesla owners in opposition to the original bill. “Tesla made out pretty good” with the amendment, he said, but it still presents barriers for other car companies who want to use the same model.
Ashley Stewart: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ashannstew